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WUGLOVE Bus Tour Part 3: TUNAGO Tour Finale–Wake Up, Girls! 5th Anniversary Live

The long blog post title is important.

I was on the flight back from a weekender attending the 3rd WUG bus tour, or the finale of the TUNAGO tour–which is a Wake Up Girls fanclub event that focuses on the seven girls as solo performers. In years past they have always done the WUG solo events as a two-day act, where each of the seven WUGchans would do their solo shows for about 1 to 2 hours, back to back across 2 days. This year they made it fanclub only, and linked the events in weekends during March. Each of the events would run twice a day, a solo act for one WUGchan, and the venue would be at a small live house somewhere in Tohoku.

This is hard for dedicated WUGners because that means they have to traverse Northern Japan for the month of March. It’s kind of expensive especially for fans outside of Tohoku, which is most of us. Local Japanese fans complained, overseas WUGners grinned and beared with it. Having the events being FC-only meant the tickets were more or less available (unless you’re looking for Myu’s show, somehow hers were the most popular (probably because hers was in Sendai and it was the easiest one to get to. Also her new solo song was the best)), despite the smallish venues. To cap it all off is the Bus Tour, which costs 50000 or so yen, plus the optional Nijikai event (another ~6000). It’s an expensive proposition no matter who you are, I guess.

To cut to the chase, now that everything is done and over with, I have a bit of mixed feelings about this year’s WUG bus tour. For starters, it’s very different than the prior tours in terms of activity. This time, the tour was nearly 500 strong, whereas prior tours had maybe half as many. The smaller counts allowed more personal-ish sessions at the earlier bus tours, such as watashikai and autograph events, and seeing the WUGchans more frequently. This time, we only saw them via the special niconama (which was streamed to the hotel rooms) as guest audience, at a greetings event at the hotel, and at the nijikai as surprise guests. And of course, the 5th anniversary live, which was the big event of the WUG bus tour part 3.

The somewhat-mixed, mostly-happy feeling I got from all this is kind of just a personal observation, but one universal part is how those of us in the WUG Love FC know how the prior bus tours went. This one being so different is going to lead to some disappointments. The tour in general is pretty lacking in terms of what’s really good for normal tourism, although the onsen ryokan we stayed at (Akiu Grand) served both as a WUG anime pilgrimage spot (same hotel in the anime) as well as a solid onsen ryokan. The food was a little on the weak side, though.

Well, enough waxing poetry on meta, here’s a blow-by-blow recall.

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Citizen Action Is Fine But LOL

I read this and well, I agree with it more than I disagree with it, for starters. In summary, it is a blog post illustrating the baseline understanding on what the table stakes are to improve working condition of Japanese animators. In specific, it says that it is reprehensible to shame people from piracy by leveraging them the information about poorly-treated animators. Lawful consumption of content produced by the anime industry also will not really address the problem, because it’s not a directing force. That much is common sense. Table stakes. If you’re not at this level I don’t think we can have a constructive discussion.

It is a helpful post by listing some key items and things westerners know about, such as the anime dorm thing and Janica, as well as Sakugablog. However I think it kind of trips on itself by trying to criticize anime press and the lack of information available to fans. Here are some of my thoughts.

  1. In the post it says that information and misinformation is a major issue. I agree–both as someone who has been misinformed and have seen plenty others being misinformed, for starters. I’m not entirely sure if that blog post is fully informed, namely, it overreaches. I think you can’t take such a cut-and-dry approach to labor relations, especially applying some international models to Japan. It doesn’t often work–even for large capital firms trying to break into that market. The relationship between press and advertiser, too, is a complicated thing that I don’t have time to get into now, and this outside view is obtuse.
  2. The problem of poor information is understated. For starters, plain PR-style information is not even well represented in English. There is definitely a selection bias due to the industrial relationships between localizers, press, and Japanese content producers. At the same time, it is not really a goal of these organizations to educate consumers. Fandom, possibly the most well-equipped source of information, is often also not primed as a means of education, either because there is a lack of organization, or because the scope of information does not address greater, fundamental education that is lacking. Misusing decontextualized data and concepts remains a pervasive issue.
  3. This partly plays out at the Sakugablog. The relationship between Sakugablog, its exposure of individual animators to the western public, and that post, is also an example of poor information and disinformation. As Kevin and others may tell you outright, sometimes the truth cannot be simply disclosed, and Sakugablog is not really meant to serve that whistleblowing purpose. Sakugabooru and Sakugablog ultimately serves its fan niche first and foremost, and it is not a public outreach platform, despite it wanting to be that as well. I think the need for something like a news-like site to explain how everything is, is part of what the sakuga community needs, so Sakugablog tried to serve that purpose. However, if you would read this tortured whistleblowing, you would know it’s not really in a position to do so. First and foremost, if you are friends with the cottage industry that is Japanese sakuga-making, you can’t really be a bull in the proverbial china shop. The accusational post is not even 1:1 accusation and explanation, it’s like 5 parts couching the issue, 1 parts defending the accused, and 1 part actually accusing. The public is not really ready for something like this, because we are generally just grossly misinformed about this niche industry. Even with that long post there is a lot of room for misunderstanding, and misunderstanding by casual/semi-casual fans, not just randos. Pursue the comments in that Marchen Madchen post (RIP). And by the public or randos I don’t just mean western fans, but in general, including the Japanese, non-sakuga-otaku public. Animator working condition discussions at times is a sensitive issue, and I’m not sure it’s possible to talk about these things in that context without either diluting your message or cause more problems. More importantly, this is a huge, systemic issue, that is related with a bunch of other issues, and there are few ways to tackle this without a full on knowledge of what builds the system up, which require a truckload of knowledge beyond appreciation of animators.
  4. There are other unions that blog post missed. Obviously the one in my wheelhouse is the Japanese actors union which covers voice acting, which dictates rates, guarantees and royalties, among other things.  Musicians also have unions, depends if they are composers or what, but in this regard many anime-related musicians are attached to a major label or freelance, so those arrangements will take precedence. Seiyuu union is a good example to show that unionization in Japan only works so much to help working condition. Short of spending the next 1000 words describing it I’ll just say one should read up on Shirobako’s most pitiful out of the five. Only if things were that simple.
  5. The blog post points to neoliberal traps of market correction, but fails to acknowledge that the likes of PA Works, Kyoto Animation, and other animation companies are the first and foremost actors in improving the working condition of their employees and contractors. This is at odds with Sakugablog’s fairly cheerleader-like posture at these positive industry-side changes. As things are in reality, it takes both sides, labor and employer, reaching some compromise for the situation to improve. It would be foolish to write away the employer side as handwaving “neoliberalism.” That posure in fact shows a poor understanding of the role of these companies in the ecosystem. To me, the fact that animation companies are actively trying to improve the situation implies a truck load of other things that ought to be discussed in the breadth of that post (should it decide to go there), and truly that’s kind of the change citizen actions should push for anyway. But it’s weird that none of that is being said in that blog post. Which is again, a bull in china shop kind of thing, cottage industry and all. Anyways, that omission seems critical, especially in light of some of the other word-drops (like Young Animators Project).

I do heartily agree that people need a firm grasp on fundamentals, like citizen action on system change, how it works, and other things illustrated by that blog post, to have a sensible discussion on how to elevate the working condition of Japanese animators. However it also takes a lot of data and keen understanding on Japanese work culture, business practices, societal attitudes, demographics, anime industry structures, patterns and much more, to be pushing these kinds of recommendations, not simply blanketly apply things that may have worked somewhere else without acknowledging the need to address localized concerns. If we want to make arguments not on rational points and facts, and instead appeal to emotion, I think that blog post makes a good point. But does that even matter? I think let’s stay away from the usual SJW-ing too hard and focus our effort on tangible ways to help animators, even if it’s a band-aid.

But like I said, I agree with that post more than I disagree with it. It’s worth the time to read.

PS. Anyone going to WUG Bus Tour? See you there.


The A5 Kobe Beef of Smiles

As a minor fan of seiyuu unit Wake Up, Girls!, I’ve seen them perform live a few times. As per the customary behavior of Japanese wota in attendance, there are some vigorous calls happening. Calls, in this context, means the words or cheering that the audience chant or yell towards the stage to cheer on their idols. There is one song that they do which the calls are particularly now “a part of the song” in my head, and the calls are fun too. It’s Gokujou Smile.

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Forever Million Live

Today is the last day of operation for the GREE-published version of Million Live, which is the original IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE game. Ps call it “greemas” for short. It is the core product of that IP and it is now shut down as of this writing, just moments ago.

There are so many things I want to say so I’ll just keep it short and in bullets. Think of it as a way for me to commemorate this occasion.

This game was how my “gacha cherry” was popped. This meant my mental barriers were rationalized away and since then I spent good money on games I think that are worth it, which is namely just the other two major IDOLM@STER SNS games, Deresute and Theater Days. I also spend money on games that I think have entertained me a lot, just much less. (For example, I already spent maybe $160 in Pricone Redive but I probably will stop there. This is not even 10% of what I spent in Greemas.)

This game was occasionally very fun, but usually more a chore. The saving grace is that the chore part is pretty light, unless you wanted to do a crazy amount of ranking. In the finals stats page the game provided during its shutdown period, I was able to get the “IDOLM@STER” achievement 11 times, which is just to say I was able to produce at least 1 idol in the top percentiles. I forget exactly. But it’s little things like that which makes this game fun.

The thing I will miss the most about Greemas is how it is a game that really went to creative places. Like a Star Wars inspired event. Or taking traditional idol torture to the next level. Or the Namasuka Sunday events. Or Tokugawa’s Castle, literally. There were various sports meets. There was TGS. There was the live on the space station. It was nuts. Theater Days so far has not even came close to scratching that itch, although it does seem things might move in that direction finally…

Million Live might be the first time where the game and the live events were closely integrated, to the degree that you can have producer support walls and even ticket lotteries in the game. Will this tradition continue? I hope so.

It is definitely the first IM@S game where recorded lines from the live were delivered into game as content, days just after the event. It’s a great way to energize your hardcore eventing fan base. It also points at the live events as a part of the game. It is the kind of thing that makes me think that Million Live is an IP where the content revolves around the live events.

This is all besides the core community on Greemas. During the Theater Boost [idol voting for Theater Days] people were communicating on the idol boards on Greemas. Greemas also has a dialog engine where you can create commu screens and it ran contests on the best fan-submitted entries. On top of the basic player communication and lounges, there are no easy replacements for them.

Thank you Greemas. Million Live will continue without you, but it will never be the same and we will never forget the good (and bad) times!


Kawaii Kon 2018: Wrap

I went to Hawaii again. It was a good time.

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